EDITORIAL: Poor post-harvest handling cause for food loss

There is a very important meeting taking place in Kigali. The 7th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) has attracted delegates from 144 countries. The item on the agenda is food.

There is a very important meeting taking place in Kigali.

The 7th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) has attracted delegates from 144 countries. The item on the agenda is food.

Research by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicates that a third of the world’s food production – approximately 1.3 billion tones – goes to waste every year yet in many parts of the world millions go to bed on empty stomachs.

Food loss in developing countries is very different from the so-called third world. In the former, most food goes to waste on supermarket shelves or in people’s homes. In the latter it is different matter all together; most food gets spoilt during post-harvest.

Post-harvest handling and storage in most African countries, especially for non-grain food, is still a major challenge. Food such as vegetables and tubers would only be harvested when needed in the pot but at least grains could be stored in granaries.

Today, the practice is still widespread as food preservation and processing is still at its infant stage. With the agriculture sector contributing 35 per cent of Rwanda’s GDP, the country cannot afford to lose food through lack of basic preservation technology.

It is inconceivable that the country imports tomato paste when farmers complain that their produce goes to waste when there is surplus supply on the market. In fact, most canned food in our supermarkets can be produced here but businesses would rather stock foreign goods for lack of an alternative.

Food processing is a niche market that local investors should seriously look into.

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